Saving History Saturday: Pre-Civil War Era Building in Buffalo, New York to Be Saved Via Adaptive Reuse

Just this week, Preservation Buffalo Niagara has announced its plans to save an 1848 building – named the Eliza Quirtk Boarding House – in downtown Buffalo, New York.

The Eliza Quirk Boarding House in Buffalo, New York. (Courtesy of Preservation Buffalo Niagara)

On December 19, 2019, Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) officially acquired the property that was previously scheduled for demolition back in 2017. During that unstable time for the building, PBN and a local developer stepped in opposing the demolition. That developer, Rocco Termini, purchased the property with the goal of transferring ownership to PBN.

According to PBN, “The Eliza Quirk Boarding House (72 Sycamore), located on the edge of downtown and the East Side of Buffalo in Erie County, is a pre-Civil War boarding house designed and constructed circa 1848 for its original owner, Eliza Quirk, a well-known courtesan, who occupied the building until her death in 1868.  The structure is a simple, red brick vernacular townhouse style that represents a typical pre-Civil War design signifying its residential use. While the architect (if any) is unknown, the boarding house appears to have been built as both Ms. Quirk’s primary residence and a boarding house with likely additional use as a brothel throughout this period. It is one of the few remaining intact boarding houses and pre-Civil War buildings in downtown.”

Its historic significance is why PBN and its partners have stepped in to save it. Executive Director of PBN Jennie Fischer stated, “In addition to being an important remaining part of the Sycamore Street landscape, this building has a unique and fascinating history and we are looking forward to ensuring that this building remains a part of our city-scape for another 170 years.”

Through adaptive reuse renovation, the Eliza Quirk property will be converted into three units of affordable housing, office space, and a meeting place for the Preservation Resource Center. PBN hopes to also put the building on the National Register of Historic Places. Renovations will cost $2.1 million.

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